Metro Transit reports safety improvements in update to lawmakers

Metro Transit reports safety improvements in update to lawmakers

Metro Transit reports safety improvements in update to lawmakers

Ridership is up and crime is down, according to Metro Transit leaders who gave an update to state lawmakers at the Capitol on Tuesday.

The progress report to the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee comes six months after the Legislature passed new initiatives to address rising crime that has contributed to a public safety crisis on the light rail system.

“We’re improving. We’re not where we need to be, but we’re definitely making headway,” said Charlie Zelle, Chair of the Metropolitan Council which oversees Metro Transit.

There have been a handful of safety changes this year, with the most recent being fare enforcement on light rail trains, which started this month. Now, Metro Transit is asking riders for proof of payment and issuing citations for fare evaders.

They also added private security at Blue Line stations that had become hotspots for crime, worked to hire more officers and considered adding turnstiles.

Data from the Met Council ahead of Tuesday’s presentation to the Legislature shows reports of crime have dropped by 33% from the first quarter of 2023 to the third quarter.

As part of the Transit Service Intervention Project created by the Legislature, Metro Transit contracted with 10 nonprofit groups to provide “enhanced social services outreach and engagement.”

Lesley Kandaras, general manager of Metro Transit, told lawmakers the agency’s partners have contacted more than 500 people in need of services since launching the program in June.

“We’ve really made progress on this front to make sure we have multiple types of people out there on our system,” Kandaras said.

One of those people is Lisa Clemons, CEO of A Mother’s Love Initiative. She addressed lawmakers on Tuesday by showing them a binder documenting every contact her group has made with someone on the system.

“Some say ‘it was a nice day,’ some are crisis reports,” Clemons said. “These are all people asking for help… and we would like to continue providing that help.”

RELATED: New calls to ‘enclose every station’ in response to crime on Twin Cities light rail

Other takeaways from the hearing include:

  • Calls for service are increasing, with most coming from Minneapolis.
  • Officers are calling for service more often.
  • Despite an authorized force of 171, Metro Transit Police currently has 109 full-time officers.
  • In addition to sworn officers, there are 13 community service officers out of the 70 that are budgeted for.